The Himalayan Sacred River Tour
Conditions and Risks


Adventure Travel With Transformative Journeys India (TJI)

Transformative Journeys India hires a quality adventure team in Rishikesh to assist us in our travels.  However it is crucial to know that adventure travel is unique and different from comfort travel. We will use multiple (and memorable) means of transportation: buses, trains, cars (usually SUVs), rickshaws, horse-drawn tongas, horses. The tour includes two treks (on foot) at medium to high elevations.  Our travel takes us through locations and topographies that are not simple or easy to traverse -- for example: mountain paths, river-crossings, and crowded bazaars. The settings and terrain of our travel make this an adventure tour that entails physical exertion and challenges you to maintain a good attitude as a member of the group.   These same features of the travel also pose risks.  Travel on the plains and in the mountains of India can cause loss or damage to gear, injury, illness, or in extreme cases, death.  We travel with one of the best in-country providers in India. Nevertheless, the conditions in India are unlike those in most of the rest of the Western World. 

Lodgings and Sleeping Conditions

This is an adventure trip and not exclusively a comfort hotel-hopping experience.  That said, our lodgings will vary from comfortable to luxurious.  We will sleep in the following contexts:

     Two nights on planes

     Two nights on trains, in sleeper cars with sleeping births and air conditioning. We book 3rd class a/c cars as there is typically only one 1st class car per train and it is very difficult to get 2nd a/c births in larger numbers.  3rd a/c is plenty comfortable.

     Two nights at riverside tent resorts, in a large tent with attached bathroom, running cold water, buckets of hot water available for a small fee

     Two nights camping in two-person tents with two squat-toilet tents nearby

     Six nights in comfortable guesthouses or hotels with bathrooms, hot water, and air conditioning.  Two persons to a room, in some cases three

     Two nights in a riverside boutique hotel, formerly a summer palace, two persons to a room, sometimes three.

Road-Conditions and Travel-Times by Car

By American standards, the experience of driving on most roads in India is intense.  In Indian cities, the roads are typically extremely congested. Driving on them often requires quick maneuvers and vehicles come very close to each other.  In rural areas and in the Central and Upper Himalayas, the roads are often narrow and winding.  On our tours, we drive on roads that are usually paved and in good repair but there can be shorter patches that are rough and in disrepair.  Please note that mountain roads in India often have no guard rails and there are steep drops to river valleys below. It is important to anticipate this experience.   Our drivers are highly experienced in Himalayan road travel as well as city driving and they know the passages well.  The cars (usually SUVs) that we use are in excellent condition with good tires.  We will travel by car from Rishikesh (on the plains) up to Gangotri (10,000 ft).  The total drive-time between Rishikesh and Gangotri is approximately 10-12 hours, spread over two days, each way. 

Weather Conditions that Require Specific Preparations

Weather conditions encountered on our tour can be extreme. They include 105 degree Delhi heat, 70 degree lower range villages, and 30 degree mountain meadows. You will be responsible for bringing adequate personal gear. Typically we pack everything from sunblock, wicking tees, zip-off pants, quality rain shell, fleece, wool, down, stocking caps, long underwear, wind protection jackets, and three-season sleeping bag, boots, and duffle -- one per person and no hard-sided suit cases as these cannot be effectively lashed to a pack-animal.

While trekking and camping, our exploration team will provide clean water and good food.  They also provide tents (including bathroom tents), all kitchen gear and facilities, portage animals (so you don’t need to bring yours), and local guides.  Tour policy is no mountain backpacks worn on the treks.  You should carry a daypack for your journal, trail lunch, and rain/warm gear for the trail -- a pack that is a similar size to college/high school book packs.

Again, be assured that we will offer guidance as to what to bring.  This will include a healthy physical and mental frame of mind for this adventure!


Landscape Conditions on Treks and Trekking Time

Some of our treks cross rugged terrain: mountain passes, snow and ice, exposed and rough trails, routes threatened by avalanches and landslides. Sometimes we are in lush forests, at other times we will be crossing streams and rivers on wood and metal bridges. There are risks of falling, rock fall, landslides and exposure. The trails we use are shared by porters, sadhus, and other trekkers, mostly Indian.  We monitor the conditions as carefully as possible, send people ahead to check out current conditions, and eliminate any passages on the trip it they have become what we deem to be too dangerous. 

The mountain trek from Mussoorie to the village of Anidasu (6000 ft) is a relatively easy trek that goes down the north side of the Mussoorie ridge and up the next ridge.  It takes about four hours with a lunch break.  The pilgrimage trek from Gangotri to Chirbasa takes about five to six hours ascending, four to five hours descending. The paths are clear and usually well maintained. At points there are steep drop-offs to one side. Tour leaders and guides are nearby throughout.  We insure that at least one leader or guide stays at the rear.

Travel with Transformative Journeys India is not a technical mountain expedition.  Our goal is to be present and mindful on the path.  No mountains are “conquered” on this trip; we are not climbing Everest.   But  we are also not just sipping mango juice on the veranda of a four star hotel!

Animal Encounters

India has monkeys like America has squirrels. While they generally keep to themselves, they have been known to physically touch our travelers. At no time should we encourage contact through feeding or interaction. In fact, it is best to avoid eye-contact with monkeys and not to smile at them, as they see this as aggressive.  In other words, best to enjoy them at a distance and not get chummy or invite them for dinner.  Also, we will be traveling in leopard country at times and there are bears.  We have never seen a single such animal over decades of travel in India.  A dangerous encounter with an animal is highly unlikely but nevertheless we and our guides stay aware and keep us informed.

Hygiene and Water

The only safe water is bottled water with an unopened seal. No tap water in cities, towns and villages, or stream water can be trusted to be safe. Cleaning your hands before eating and after toilet functions is critical in maintaining good health. Use of hand sanitizer throughout the trip will be crucial.  Much more on this as we prepare for our departure.


Elevation and Altitude Sickness

You will trek to high altitudes. Altitude sickness (Acute Mountain Sickness: AMS) is a risk. Altitude sickness occurs when your body cannot properly adapt to the lower amounts of oxygen found in the air at high and extreme altitudes. Acclimatization is the process by which the body adapts. Most people suffer some form of mild altitude sickness and most people can acclimatize to high altitudes, but not everyone. The key is to ascend slowly, over a period of days, and to drink plenty of water. Our tour is designed to do exactly this.  Traveling, trekking, and climbing at high (above 2400m) and extreme altitudes poses numerous risks. It thickens the blood and increases the risk of blood clots, even if you stay fully hydrated. The lower levels of oxygen in the bloodstream do affect the brain, heart and other organs. Again, our itinerary allows for gradual acclimatization. The highest point on the tour is Chirbasa, at 11,745 feet.


Hospital facilities

In an emergency situation, hospital care is not often immediately available, although there are some professional clinics on our route. We are aware of all hospital facilities in the areas where we travel.  First class care is present in Delhi. While trekking and travelling you may be up to three days from any medical facility. Proper travel insurance will provide for emergency evacuation to an adequate hospital.

Our Exploration Team in India

Transformative Journeys India travels with a highly skilled team though an exploration service called Garhwal Himalayan Explorations (GHE). They know the routes, the roads, and the people. They provide skilled assistance throughout our travel and treks. It is very important that we follow their suggestions and guidance regarding the safety on the trails, the route choices, and any possible emergencies that should arise.

Minor injuries and illnesses have occurred during our trips. TJI and GHE provide excellent care during these times. But we caution and care throughout the journey, and each person should be prepared physically and have appropriate gear.  We will provide thorough information and recommendations regarding safety and health issues on the tour.